Thursday, 07 December 2017 21:24

Jeff Landry vs. Latoya Cantrell: Theft, politics or prosecutorial discrimination?

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scale justiceFacing a political party adversary, who happens to be an ambitious politician, hoping to be the next Louisiana governor, is not the way that New Orleans Mayor-elect, LaToya Cantrell, wants to spend the next six month as she pieces together her transition team and ultimately her city government staff-- until she gets sworn in as New Orleans Mayor, May 2017.


Yet, this is what she is facing. Tomorrow could be a major step forward into whether the Tea Party-Republican and Attorney General Jeff Landry has wind beneath his wings as he proceeds with an investigation in pursuit of a criminal case against the first woman to be Mayor in the city.  Tomorow, Landry hopes to convince an Orleans Parish judge to recuse all of the judges at Tulane and Broad, in favor of the Louisiana Supreme Court, appointing an ad-hoc judge in their place on the Landry vs. Cantrell New Orleans City Council Credit Card affair


The case in chief comes down to whether the New Orleans city councilwoman has broken the law versus whether the Republican Attorney General can prosecute without being painted as a self-serving politician seeking political publicity. 

Today, Christopher Tidmore, political editor for the Louisiana Weekly and Stephen Sabludowsky, Publisher of Bayoubuzz, discussed these and other issues today in a Facebook Live, filmed in part, at the Caribbean Room at the Pontchatrain Hotel.

Below is part one of the discussion. Also, the entire interview can be watched below

We're here to talk about what's gonna happen tomorrow morning which is a football match on par with anything the Saints are facing tonight and that is a attorney and state prosecutors for Attorney General Jeff Landry appearing before New Orleans Criminal Court Chief Judge Laurie White and asking for a change in venue, an ad-hoc judge to be able to prosecute this so-called case on the credit cards. 

It's a challenging request to basically say "look LaToya Cantrell is too connected to every judge in town".  Admittedly, the magistrate ahead for the criminal court is her father-in-law Harry Cantrell--so there's at least a case there.  The challenge that Jeff Landry faces is the fact that he believed that he is only targeting LaToya Cantrell.   This is not a mistake just legislative auditors is making.  The legislative auditor has come in and subpoenaed the credit card records of each and every council member.   

SABLUDOWSKY: Let's back up just for a second if you don't mind and why don't you give us  a 50,000 mile overview in terms of how we got here? 

TIDMORE: alright every councilmember and their chief of staff has issued a credit card for office expenses. They have a discretion on what they can use for office expenses but it has to be office related, at least that's where the law says--could be trips, could be that. Several council members have used their office credit card for office materials believing that they are buying cheaper than what the city is able to get through its official procurement arm which does raise a lot of questions about the contract.  Sometimes, usually a mass contract is a better price apparently that wasn't so--others have used it for travel to go to various conferences and have gotten reimbursed the city has paid those bills.  What has happened is a practice that every single council member has done, is put quote private expenses on the credit card.  Now this is a bit of a gray area and what I mean by that is private expenses can mean a lot of different things--case in point--last Thursday night I was with two prominent Jefferson Parish politicos who are decrying what was going on, was asking me what was happening, we're having dinner, and I said--and he said Stacy Head's not guilty of this-- I said, well she is.  But as that you look at the guilt in this situation, I said for example, she bought a refrigerator and filled it with cokes and soft drinks for her staff and she paid it back--that's a distinctly private expense but it was for her staff to have drinks, you know, to have cold drinks during the day in the hot of summer in their office so their productivity went up.  She paid for it, it's a private expense for a public purpose.  Take that, extend to Latoya Cantrell she bought turkeys for constituents for turkey dinner, paid for it, private expense but it was in her capacity as a public official. 

Cantrell's problem is she did it more than everybody else, considerably more--and she didn't pay off the final expenses until she qualified to run for mayor the last 4,000 of the nine thousand dollars in disputed expenses.  So Jeff Landry is pursuing this case that she broke city ordinances on the use of the card, state ethics laws, so on and so forth--and he has come to the conclusion that she cannot get a fair judge in Orleans Parish.  Now Jeff Landry is used to taking political risk ever since he ran for Congress when he ran for attorney general he's used to rolling the dice.  This is a heck of a dice to roll because effectively he's going into a court on balance, tends to be African American African,American chief judge, and saying that the newly elected mayor of New Orleans who was elected by the people knowing this whole situation should be prosecuted outside of Orleans Parish for what is effectively in Orleans Parish ordinance--though there are state ethics laws involved.

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